Pearl jewellery is the ultimate style statement. Representing timeless sophistication, elegance and class, they’re a versatile design that pairs well with so many outfits and aesthetics. Whatever your style, you can find a way to rock pearls your way, but what should you be looking out for? Read on for our handy guide.
WHERE DO PEARLS COME FROM?
The first thing to know about pearls is that they vary in shape, quality, colour and price. Really, it’s your personal style and budget that is the key deciding factor in which ones you should go for.
Natural pearls are created through a rare process. It can take at least 6 months for a natural pearl to form inside an oyster, and are typically left for at least a year to grow to a decent size. Because of this, the cultured pearl industry was formed to bridge the gap between natural pearl formation and consumer demand.
Today, pearl farms use both saltwater seas and freshwater lakes to create pearls. Saltwater and freshwater oysters are injected with nucleus tissue, which acts as an irritant and encourages the oyster to form a pearl.
TYPES OF PEARLS
Pearls fall into three broad categories:
- Natural pearls. These vary in size and luminosity, and usually have a stunning, iridescent quality. They are found in a variety of shapes and sizes, simply because they are wild and therefore not uniform. Natural pearls are more difficult to find, so they tend to be more expensive.
- Cultured pearls. These have some of the same qualities but are most often uniformly shaped and sized. They can also be dyed or bleached to achieve different colour lustre. Many think of cultured pearls as imitation, but it’s not actually the case. They’re made from the same material as natural pearls and take time to cultivate — up to seven years in fact, depending on the type of pearl.
- Imitation pearls. These are often made of plastic or glass, and can be manufactured easily and cheaply. Often known as shell pearls, you can spot them from their smooth surface, artificial colouring and low price tag.
Both natural and cultured pearls of all varieties can be a valuable jewellery investment. Serious investors should look to Akoya pearls from Japan, Tahitian pearls or the South Sea variety from Australia.
PICKING THE RIGHT PEARLS FOR YOU
Pearls epitomise style, elegance and refined taste. Just envision the short choker-style necklace made famous by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the long strings that evoke the Gatsby era of the 1920s.
Here’s what you can keep in mind when choosing and styling your next piece:
Just like a little black dress, different pearl necklace lengths will highlight different parts of your body. A shorter necklace will draw attention to the neck, while a longer necklace will accentuate the bust and elongate your torso. Keep this in mind when putting your next outfit together, so you can always make sure you balance the length of your necklace with your outfit.
Pearl jewellery comes in such a wide variety of colours. Most of them can be found naturally, or are otherwise achieved with the help of treatments. White is, of course, a classic choice. Black pearls are not actually pure black, but dark shades of grey, green, blue or peacock. This gives them an exotic look that works especially well with darker skin tones. Pink, peach and lavender shades are fun and flirty for summer wear.
In the case of pearls, size matters. A good rule of thumb is to choose pearls 7mm or larger for women, and smaller ones for younger girls and teens.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR PEARL JEWELLERY
When cared for properly, pearl jewellery can last a lifetime. Our body’s natural oils keep pearls looking lustrous, so it’s good to wear them often. However, keep them away from household chemicals including perfume, makeup and hairspray, which can dull their shine.
Always put them on last and take them off first. Before putting them away, wipe them with a soft cloth and store them separately from other jewellery to avoid scratching their surface. What’s more, most pearl necklaces are strung on silk cord. Due to the fine nature of this material, it’s a good idea to have them restrung every few years.
If the traditional necklace style does not work for you, try a pearl lariat. For a versatile variation, you can also hang a pendant, a charm or a favourite crystal to your necklace. Mix it up and wear the necklace along with some metal, costume or vintage jewellery. Mixing and layering your pearls gives them a unique, contemporary look.
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